The Irish cricket side, which I joined in 1965, had just ceased being called 'The Gentlemen of Ireland'. However, it was a long time before they shook off their gentlemanly state of mind and it was not until 1977 when they beat Sussex at Pagham that Irish cricket could be considered a force to be reckoned with. What should be the next stage of progression?
Certain of us thought it should be to enter the only English 1-day competition of the time, the Gillette Cup. It was discovered that the TCCB would be receptive to an application and thus in 1980 we were in.
The draw was made and, lo and behold, we drew Middlesex at Lords on 2nd July, not a bad opponent for Ireland's first competitive match in history. We arrived in London the day before under the stewardship of Chairman of Selectors, Eoin McCann, and President Stuart Pollock. Stuart was very wise and kind and took the team out for a meal and drinks the night before, which seemed to do everyone good and certainly prepared us better than a curfew and `early to bed'.
On the big day the weather was fine, I was skipper, won the toss and elected to bat. I can still visualise the ashen faces when I returned to the dressing room with the news that we would be facing Wayne Daniel and Vincent van der Bijl first up. Mr McCann still talks about it today (now that he is our President) but I though it was the positive thing to do, especially as we were playing on an old wicket which wouldn't get any better and that our opening bowler, John Elder, had cried off ill overnight.
We didn't get the best of starts - 7 for 2 - with Mike Reith and Ginger O'Brien back in the hutch (hardly an appropriate name for the Lord's pavilion). However, our two best batsmen, Jack Short and Ivan Anderson, showed real guts and no little technique as they added 68 for the third wicket and saw off the opening bowlers plus Emburey and Selvey - in fact it was Middlesex's sixth bowler, the occasional Mike Gatting, who removed them both. We progressed to 99 for 4 before The Diamond and Big Vince were recalled and we were polished off for 102. I could hear `I told you so' under a lot of breaths.
We then bowled better than anyone would have thought possible. When Middlesex had reached 69 for 5, Graham Barlow ran up the wicket to Mike Halliday, missed and the ball went for 3 byes. It was the turning point and, had he been stumped, who knows what might have happened. Barlow and van der Bijl then went on to win the match and Middlesex heaved a huge sigh of relief. Our selectors had left out our wicketkeeper, Eddie Bushe, for this game in favour of Gerry Murphy, who could bat. He never played for Ireland again, but he had the consolation of going on to coach the Irish rugby side.
In his speech after the game, Jim Laker, the Man of the Match adjudicator, praised Michael Halliday (4 for 22) to the stars and Mike Brearley, who from then onwards became a supporter of Irish cricket, wondered how we had the foresight to pick three spinners. We actually picked four, but Simon Corlett was opening the bowling then. We didn't win but nothing was ever as difficult thereafter.